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Introduction to WAP and WML

Kevin McManus
Material re-cycled from Gill Windall

2004

the University of Greenwich

What is WAP?
WAP = Wireless Application Protocol WML = Wireless Markup Language A series of specifications for delivering and presenting information on mobile (wireless) devices.
originally from the WAP Forum now the Open Mobile Alliance Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola, Microsoft, Visa, IBM etc.

Why WAP & WML?


because the standard Internet and Web technologies (e.g. TCP/IP, HTTP, HTML) don't work well for small mobile devices across wireless networks

Isn't WAP & WML dead?


not yet
although it will be superseded before it ever achieves its full potential

Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated Mark Twain


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Constraints of the wireless/mobile environment


Low bandwidth compared to wired networks
commonly 9600 bps or less unless you have 3G

Less reliable networks


e.g. when your train goes into the tunnel

Devices with little memory and processing power Small screens with low resolution Fiddly user interface devices Even greater diversity of devices than on the normal wired network So basically:
data arrives slowly, if at all when it arrives the device hasn't the power to do much with it and anyway you can hardly see it and still less interact with it!
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And yet...
By 2003 it is estimated that in Western Europe 20% (78 million people) of the population will be active WAP users and over 40% of the population will own WAP enabled phones Carl Henrick Marcussen 2000
1.5 billion mobile subscribers by 2006, 684 million of which will use microbrowser enabled services Mackenzie & OLoughlin 2000
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Comparing WAP with the Web


A simplistic view of the layers of Web technologies
As a developer of websites and web applications which of these do you need to deal with?
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high level user oriented

Browser layer HTML, JavaScript, PNG, etc.


HTTP TCP/IP low level hardware oriented
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WAE Wireless Application Environment: WML - equivalent of HTML WMLScript - equivalent of JavaScript WBMP - Wireless Bitmap - graphics format

WSP (Wireless Session Protocol) - the WAP equivalent of HTTP - binary rather than text based
WTP (wireless transaction protocol), WTLS (Wireless Transaction Layer Security), WDP (Wireless Datagram Protocol)

As a developer of WAP sites and applications which of these do you need to deal with?

Non-WAP "bearer" protocols IP, PPP, SMS, GSM, GPRS

Comparing WAP with the Web


The low-level protocols involved in wireless/mobile communication are not part of WAP. WAP runs over them In ye olden times mobile phones in Europe, Asia and parts of the USA used GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)
pay for the time of connection

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) is an extension to GSM which offers higher bandwidth than GSM
only pay for the data transferred was referred to as 3rd Generation wireless network technology 3G only recently arrived with high bandwidth (~2Mbit)

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Comparing WAP with the Web


WTP, WTLS, WDP are WAP protocols that that provide glue between the low level non-WAP protocols and the higher level WAP protocols. WSP (Wireless Session Protocol) is the WAP equivalent of HTTP.
HTTP is text based (human readable) whereas WSP is binary why might that be?

WML, WBMP & WMLScript


versions of standard Web client technologies adapted for a wireless environment
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How do WAP web pages get to a WAP device?


WAP gateway
performs compression and translation HTTP server hello.wml the wireless web the wired web Page written in WML

Pages written in WML are served from a standard HTTP server - this can be, and often is a normal web server which also contains HTML pages, runs server side programs (e.g. ASP, PHP, JSP), communicates with databases etc.

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WAP gateway
Communication between the WAP gateway and the HTTP server uses normal web protocols (i.e. HTTP over TCP/IP). The WAP gateway may be run by the cell phone carrier or a third party gateway provider Its role is to:
physically link the wired and wireless networks translate between web protocols (HTTP and TCP/IP) and WAP protocols (WSP, WTP etc) perform compression - WML is stored on the HTTP server in text format, the gateway converts it to binary format for transmission
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WAP browser
The WAP browser running on the mobile device (phone or PDA) works in a similar way as a normal web browser to format pages for display. Because mobile devices tend to be even more diverse than static ones the same page may get displayed in very different ways by different browsers on different devices e.g. the same page displayed in WinWAP (a PC based WAP browser) and on a simulator of a Nokia phone.

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Thoughts
What are the implications of the last point about the diversity of devices for the web developer? How could the web developer avoid duplicating content by having to provide a normal web version of pages and a WAP version?
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Configuring an HTTP server to deliver WAP content


For most servers this just means configuring it to recognise the file types used by WAP and to generate the appropriate MIME Types.
Extension .wml .wmls .wbmp Meaning WML WMLScript WBMP image MIME Type text/vnd.wap.wml text/vnd.wap.wmlscript image/vnd.wap.wbmp

If you want to publish a WAP site via an ISP then you need to check with them whether the server is configured to deliver WAP content.
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WML - Wireless Markup Language


Smaller language than HTML adapted for:
limited display and user input facilities low bandwidth limited device power - memory and processing

An XML language
all the usual XML syntax rules apply - attribute values in quotes, every tag must have a closing tag etc.

It contains a subset of XHTML It contains some powerful things not found in XHTML
variables user input validation templates

DTD available from the Open Mobile Alliance


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Structure of a WML document


We're very used to the idea of each HTML document containing one HTML page
WML has a different structure.

Each WML document consists of a deck of cards


normally only one card is displayed at a time.
intro.wml
<card id="int3"> <card id="int2"> <card id="int1"> </card>

shop.wml
<card id="sh4"> <card id="sh3"> <card id="sh2"> </card> <card id="sh1"> </card> </card> </card>
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</card> </card>

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WML
The whole deck is referred to by the URL of the WML page http://wap.webbedwonders.co.uk/intro.wml Decks are downloaded at one time
saves the overhead of multiple requests for small documents.

Individual cards can be referenced http://wap.webbedwonders.co.uk/intro.wml#int1 What are the implications of the above if a WML document was to contain a large number of cards?

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reference to the WML DTD


<?xml version="1.0"?> <!DOCTYPE wml PUBLIC "-//WAPFORUM//DTD WML 1.1//EN "http://www.wapforum.org/DTD/wml_1.1.xml"> <wml> <head> information about the document (i.e. meta data) can go in the head </head> <template> the template can contain code that will appear on every card in the deck e.g. a "back" and "home" option </template> <card> cards contain the basic displayable content </card> <card> ..... </card> etc </wml>
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WML document structure


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cms1.wml - a three card deck


card 1

card 2 card 3

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<?xml version="1.0"?> <!DOCTYPE wml PUBLIC "-//WAPFORUM//DTD WML 1.1//EN "http://www.wapforum.org/DTD/wml_1.1.xml"> <wml> <template> <do type="prev" label="back" id="prev-link"> <prev /> </do> </template> <card title="CMS School" id="cms1"> <p align="center"><big>CMS school</big></p> <p><a href="#cms2">About our courses</a></p> card 1 <p><a href="#cms3">Contact details</a></p> </card> <card title="CMS School" id="cms2"> <p> <select title="CMS Course List"> <option>Undergraduate</option> card 2 <option>Postgraduate</option> </select> </p> </card> <card title="CMS Contact Details" id="cms3"> <p>CMS School<br/> University of Greenwich<br/> Old Royal Naval College<br/> Greenwich</p> card 3 <p><b>Tel:</b> 44(0)20 8331 8500</p> <p><b>Fax:</b> 44(0)20 8331 8665</p> <p><b>email:</b> cms@gre.ac.uk</p> </card> </wml>

template

cms1.wml

cms1.wml card 1
note how the title is displayed in the browser

id attribute allows the card to be referred to as #cms1

<card title="CMS School" id="cms1"> <p align="center"><big>CMS school</big></p> <p><a href="#cms2">About our courses</a></p> <p><a href="#cms3">Contact details</a></p> </card>

anchor tags work just like HTML most content is contained inside a <p> tag

what does link do?


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where does this come from?


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cms1.wml card 2
<card title="CMS School" id="cms2"> <p> <select title="CMS Course List"> <option>Undergraduate</option> <option>Postgraduate</option> </select> </p> the <select> and </card>

<option> elements offer user interactivity in a similar way as they do in HTML In this example selection of an option has no effect but in a more realistic case it may trigger an action such as linking to another card or sending to a server side program
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cms1.wml card 2
Because of the limited space on most WAP phones these elements are displayed rather clumsily On a larger device (e.g. a PDA) they may be displayed differently e.g.

The other main user input element is <input> There is no <form> element
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cms1.wml card 3
<card title="CMS Contact Details" id="cms3"> <p>CMS School<br/> University of Greenwich<br/> Old Royal Naval College<br/> Greenwich</p> <p><b>Tel:</b> 44(0)20 8331 8500</p> <p><b>Fax:</b> 44(0)20 8331 8665</p> <p><b>email:</b> cms@gre.ac.uk</p> </card>

Notice how even a small amount of information such as this requires scrolling on a mobile phone

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cms1.wml template
<template> <do type="prev" label="back" id="prev-link"> <prev /> </do> </template>

Templates add the same controls to all the cards in a deck


commonly used to add "back" and "home" controls.

Individual cards can override what they get from the template by a process known as shadowing
we won't look at this.

The <do> element is used to add a control to a card


the precise form of display is determined by the browser e.g. a button or a menu item as above.

All <do> elements have a type= attribute


the most common are "prev" and "accept"

A <do> element contains a task (in this case <prev/>) that is executed when the <do> element is activated. <prev /> is a task element which returns to the previously displayed card
other task elements include <go> and <refresh>
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vareg.wml - user input and variables


<wml> <card title="Variable example" id="v1"> <p> <fieldset> First name <input name="fname" maxlength="15" format="a*a" /> <br /> </fieldset> <fieldset> Family name <input name="lname" maxlength="15" format="aa*a" /> </fieldset> </p> <do type="accept" label="next"> <go href="#v2" /> </do> </card> <card title="Variable example" id="v2"> <p>Hello $(fname) $(lname)</p> </card> </wml>

vareg.wml card 1

<card title="Variable example" id="v1"> can be entered <p> <fieldset> First name <input name="fname" maxlength="15" format="a*a" /> <br /> </fieldset> <fieldset> Family name <input name="lname" maxlength="15" format="aa*a" /> </fieldset> </p> input data is assigned <do type="accept" label="next"> to a variable <go href="#v2" /> </do> </card>

up to 15 characters

Will only accept input that conforms to the specified format format="aa*a" means two lower case letters followed by zero or more other lower case letters other format characters include A - any uppercase alphabetic characters N - any numeric character

vareg.wml card 1
<do type="accept" label="next"> <go href="#v2" /> </do>

Another example of the <do> element - this time of the general purpose type "accept" with the label "next" The task executed when the <do> is activated this time is a <go> task. <go> tasks just cause the target href to be loaded - it may be another card in the same deck as in this example or another deck
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vareg.wml card 2
<card title="Variable example" id="v2"> <p>Hello $(fname) $(lname)</p> </card>

Variables in WML are shared by all cards in a deck The two variables fname and lname are set by the <input> elements on card 1 When you want the value of a variable to be used then the most common form to use is $(variablename)
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Quick Questions
What are the two most significant features shown in the previous example that have no direct equivalents in HTML. Why do you think they exist in WML and not HTML?

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Sending data for server side processing


HTML uses a <form> to send data to server side programs
data entered on to the form is automatically sent to the program named in the action= attribute sending to the program is triggered by the form button of type="submit"

In WML there is no <form> element. Sending to a server side program is often achieved by a <go> task triggered by a <do> element. Data for processing by the server side program can be specified using <postfield> elements

GET or POST
<do type="accept" label="submit"> <go method="get" href="dowhatever.asp"> <postfield name="fname" value="$(fname)"/> <postfield name="lname" value="$(lname)"/> </go> </do> name seen by the WML variable server side program
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dating.wml

<wml>

dating.wml

<template> <do type="prev" label="back" id="prev-link"> <prev/> </do> </template>

<card title="Wireless Dating" id="dat1"> <p align="center"> <img alt="heart" src="heart.wbmp"/> </p> <p> Find a new love! </p> <do type="accept" label="Adults only"> <go href="#dat2"/> </do> </card>
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WBMP image

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dating.wml
<card title="Wireless Dating" id="dat2"> <p> First name <input name="fname" maxlength="15" format="a*a"/> <br/> Family name <input name="lname" maxlength="15" format="aa*a"/> </p> <do type="accept" label="next"> <go href="#dat3"/> </do> </card>

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dating.wml
<card title="Wireless Dating" id="dat3"> <p> Your gender </p> <p> <select name="owng" title="own gender"> <option value="f">female</option> <option value="m">male</option> </select> </p> <p> Required gender </p> <p> <select name="dateg" title="wanted gender"> <option value="male">male</option> <option value="female">female</option> </select> </p> <do type="accept" label="next"> <go href="#dat4"/> </do> </card>

dating.wml
<card title="Wireless dating" id="dat4"> <p> Age <input name="age" size="2" maxlength="2" format="2N"/> <br/> Your best feature <input name="des" maxlength="15" format="*a"/> <br/> </p> <do type="accept" label="next"> <go href="#dat5"/> </do> </card>

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dating.wml
<card title="Wireless dating" id="dat5"> <p> Well $(fname) we hope to find you a nice $(dateg) who loves your $(des) Variables from other </p> cards set up to be <do type="accept" label="submit"> sent to the server <go method="get" href="date.php"> <postfield name="fname" value="$(fname)"/> <postfield name="lname" value="$(lname)"/> <postfield name="owng" value="$(owng)"/> <postfield name="dateg" value="$(dateg)"/> <postfield name="age" value="$(age)"/> <postfield name="description" value="$(des)"/> </go> </do> </card>

response from server side program

date.php

<?php header("Content-type: text/vnd.wap.wml"); echo "<?xml version=\"1.0\" encoding=\"UTF-8\"?>\n"; ?> <!DOCTYPE wml PUBLIC "-//WAPFORUM//DTD WML 1.1//EN" "http://www.wapforum.org/DTD/wml_1.1.xml">

output the appropriate MIME header

<wml> <card title="Suitable dates"> <p> Sorry <?php echo $_GET[fname] ?> no-one suitable at the moment - try again later.</p>
<do type="accept" label="home" id="hom"> <go href="dating.wml#dat1" /> </do> </card> </wml>
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POST or GET data as usual

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Events
WML has some event handling capabilities built-in to the language
unlike HTML

Events can be bound to a task (e.g. a <go> task) using the <onevent> element
<option> <onevent type="onpick"> <go href="listungrad.php"/> </onevent> Undergraduate </option> type of event being bound

task executed when the event occurs

The effect of the code above is to request listungrad.php when the "Undergraduate" option is selected.
There is also a shorthand for binding some events which we won't look at.
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timer.wml
<wml> do this when the timer expires

<card title="timer example 1" id="tim1"> <onevent type="ontimer"> <go href="#tim2"/> Set a timer for </onevent> 2.5 seconds <timer value="25" /> <p align="center"><big>Special Offer</big></p> </card> <card title="timer example 2" id="tim2"> <p align="center"><big>Buy lots!</big></p> </card> </wml>
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2.5 seconds later

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WMLScript
As we've seen WML allows you to do certain things that are not possible in HTML without resorting to the use of JavaScript or some other scripting language. However there are many things it can't do e.g. maths, detailed validation. In the wireless environment it is perhaps even more important to reduce trips to the server (e.g. to perform for validation) than on the normal web. (Why?) The answer is ......... WMLScript!
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WMLScript
JavaScript (lovely though it is) is quite a large and complex language
requires a lot of processing by the browser

WMLScript is very similar to a cut down JavaScript There are many similarities (syntax, operators, loops, conditonals, etc.) but also a number of differences
all WMScript code is declared in functions there are no global variables every WMLScript statement must end with a ";" WMLScript code is not interspersed with WML but is stored in a separate file (with extension .wmls) WMLScript is converted to a binary format (called bytecode) before transmission to the client WMLScript uses standard libraries to perform many tasks
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dating2.wml
<card title="Wireless dating" id="dat4"> <p> Age <input name="age" size="2" maxlength="2" format="2N"/> <br/> Your best feature <input name="des" maxlength="15" format="*a"/> <br/> call function validateAge() </p> in file dating2.wmls <do type="accept" label="next"> <go href="dating2.wmls#validateAge()"/> </do> </card> <card title="Wireless dating" id="tooyoung"> <p> Sorry kid! </p> </card> 2004 the University of Greenwich 42

dating2.wmls
extern function validateAge() { var theage = WMLBrowser.getVar("age"); if (theage < 18) { WMLBrowser.go("#tooyoung"); } else { WMLBrowser.go("#dat5"); } return; }

if less than 18 go to the tooyoung card otherwise go to the next card

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Creating sites that deliver both HTML and WML content


Option 1 - Create separate content
HTML pages HTML browser
Web server

WML browser

WML pages

WML pages may be created using software such as Nokia WAP Toolkit or an add-in to Dreamweaver.
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Creating sites that deliver both HTML and WML content


Option 2a - Automatically create WML from HTML content
this could be a static converter
HTML pages HTML browser

converter

WML browser

WML pages

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Creating sites that deliver both HTML and WML content


Option 2b - Automatically create WML from HTML content
with a dynamic converter
HTML browser

HTML pages

converter
WML browser

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Creating sites that deliver both HTML and WML content


Option 3 - Create both HTML and WML content from XML using XSLT
HTML browser XSLT for HTML pages

XSLT processor

XML pages

WML browser
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XSLT for WML pages


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Quick Questions
What advantages and disadvantages are there for the three options given above? Are there any other options?

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XSLT to generate HTML or WML


toHTML.xsl

showbooks.php If browser wants HTML use toHTML.xsl If browser wants WML use toWML.xsl

goodBooks.xml ...... <book> ..... </book> .. <book> ..... </book> ..... toWML.xsl

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Creating sites that deliver both HTML and WML content


The user surfs to the URL of the ASP (showbooks.asp) The ASP loads the XML file containing the book details The ASP detects whether the browser wants HTML or WML and applies the appropriate stylesheet to format appropriately (e.g. no book cover image for the WML version) and transform the XML into the appropriate language
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<?php error_reporting(15);

showbooks.php
If the client accepts WML

$xh = xslt_create(); xslt_set_base($xh, 'file:///home/mk05/public_html/web/wap/book/');

if ( strpos($_SERVER['HTTP_ACCEPT'],'text/vnd.wap.wml') ) { if ( $result=xslt_process($xh, 'goodBooks.xml', 'toWML.xsl') ) { header('Content-type: text/vnd.wap.wml'); } use toWML.xsl } else { if ( $result=xslt_process($xh, 'goodBooks.xml', 'toHTML.xsl') ) { header('Content-type: text/html'); } otherwise use } toHTML.xsl if ($result) { output the appropriate echo "<?xml version=\"1.0\" encoding=\"UTF-8\"?>\n"; mime type echo $result; } else { echo("There is an error in the XSL transformation...\n"); echo("\tError number: " . xslt_errno($xh) . "\n"); echo("\tError string: " . xslt_error($xh) . "\n"); exit; } xslt_free($xh); ?>

WAP applications
Hunting for information rather than browsing! Services wanted when away from the office/home computer Potentially location specific (e.g. nearest cash machine, car park etc)
Online banking Booking tickets - travel or entertainment Information services e.g.

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Share price news wap.ananova.com/business Weather http://www.excite.co.uk/wap/weather Yellow pages Sports www.waparesult.com News www.guardian.co.uk/wml Google wap.google.com
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i-mode
i-mode - an alternative to WAP? Developed in the USA but big in Japan
launched by NTT DoCoMo in 1999 arrived in the UK in 2005 (O2)

Approx 80% of the world's wireless Internet users are in Japan and approx 80% of them use i-mode rather than WAP!
45 million i-mode customers in Japan 5 million i-mode customers in the rest of the world
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Differences between i-mode and WAP


WAP is a set of protocols and languages i-mode is a complete wireless service provided by DoCoMo
uses DoCoMo proprietary protocols and open standards

WAP uses WML i-mode uses cHTML - compact HTML


a subset of HTML with some extra features for mobile applications will render on standard browsers

WAP services in Europe were circuit-switched until GPRS arrived i-mode was always based on a packet-switched system
you're always connected and only pay for data downloaded

WAP services are mostly business oriented i-mode services are mostly entertainment and games oriented i-mode mail interoperates with e-mail Until recently European devices were mostly black and white displays Japan led the way with early adoption of colour displays WAP never made much impact i-mode was an overnight success
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Conclusions
WAP, WML and WMLScript provide elegant alternatives to HTTP, HTML and JavaScript
engineered to cope with the limitations of wireless technologies but tiny screens and fiddly keyboards will always be small and fiddly although this did not stop i-mode from catching on
perhaps it was the lack of content on WAP or maybe it is a cultural thing

Mobile technology is advancing rapidly


high bandwidth, more memory, more processing power, larger, higher resolution colour displays Perhaps the age of WAP and i-mode is over and the WWW will arrive fully on mobile devices
already seeing IE and Opera on mobile devices all we need is a decent (virtual) keyboard
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